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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Libraries in stitches: Branches offer Yarn and Fabric Exchanges for community sharing

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Lisa Cox loves three things: libraries, road trips and quilting.

Last year, those three passions converged, and resulted in a new program offered at several Spokane Public Library locations.

While traveling, Cox, a clerical assistant at the Shadle Park Library, checks out libraries in the towns she passes through.

“I can’t remember where I was, but I stopped at a library that had a Bits and Pieces Exchange,” she said. “They had patterns, beads, buttons and zippers in a garage organizer. I wondered what would happen with fabric and yarn at Shadle.”

Her idea won approval from SPL, and in November, she launched the Yarn and Fabric Exchange.

“I cleaned out my fabric stash to start it.”

Cox placed the materials in a wheeled white shelving unit the library had on hand.

“They were supposed to be spinners, but they didn’t spin,” she said.

But with ample signage, the shelves proved the perfect place to display fabric remnants and yarn.

The idea is simple: People are invited to bring fabric and yarn to the information desk and can help themselves to anything from the exchange shelves that they can use. No donations are required to take something.

Last week, the shelves brimmed with balls and skeins of colorful yarn and stacks of brightly printed fabric in varied lengths.

Regular Shadle visitor Savitri Samroo happened upon the display.

“I’m here reading books about gems every week,” she said. “I make jewelry. I don’t have money for college, so I come here to learn. I love this library!”

She picked up a large square of green, red and white fabric featuring a wintry hunting scene with hounds, horses and riders.

“I can have this?” she asked.

Delighted, she folded it over her arm.

“I’m going to make a sofa pillow with it,” she said.

Sharp things such as pins, knitting needles, crochet hooks and scissors aren’t included in the exchange, nor are notions such as beads and buttons.

If such items are donated, Cox sends them to the youth and adult education programming departments for use in classes or craft projects.

A quilting club and a knitting group meet regularly at the library and the exchange is extremely popular.

In the staff area, a rolling shelf brims with bags and boxes of donated materials. No item is too big or too small. Cox has received everything from bolts of fabric to tiny quilting squares.

At the exchange shelf, she picked up a plastic bag filled with peach, pink, yellow and white crocheted squares and a few partial skeins.

“You can bring in your UFOs (unfinished objects),” she said.

Materials don’t stay on the shelves long.

“Every few days, I clean it out and send stuff to the other branches,” Cox said.

Other branches, because once customers heard about the exchange at the Shadle branch, they wanted one at their libraries.

The program is also available at the Indian Trail, South Hill and Liberty Park locations.

“Liberty Park added a yarn and fabric display after a few customers visited the branch and asked where our exchange was located,” said Thomas Herrlinger, customer service manager.

They launched their exchange on Jan. 20 and it’s seen a lot of use.

“People bring in boxes of leftover fabric from projects and grab what they need,” Herrlinger said. “Being a relatively new offering, many of our customers are surprised and excited to see the exchange when they walk into the building. They ask staff if it is all right to take materials from the exchange and let us know that they will bring in extra supplies on their next visit.”

Cox enjoys seeing people discover the Yarn and Fabric Exchange.

“It’s so fun! People really appreciate it. I hear them say, ‘Oh! I was looking for this yarn, and they didn’t have it at the store!’ ”

She said the best thing is how library customers are embracing and sustaining it.

“For me, the most fun thing has been the outpouring of the community to support this,” she said. “It’s community-driven, not library-driven.”

For more information about programs offered by Spokane Public Libraries visit